[Letter] The ‘death with dignity’ debateHave you ever been close to someone suffering from a terrible disease and longing for a peaceful death? My grandfather had an accident and broke part of his skull, requiring him to stay in hospital for a long time until he passed away. I can’t forget visiting my grandfather each month, seeing his body lose weight and grabbing his hands, which felt already dead.
Because the death of my grandfather was a very painful experience for my entire family, I think death with dignity is a necessity, not only for patients, but also their families.
For this reason, I agree with the judgment of the Supreme Court concerning death with dignity. However, as this decision was made for the first time in Korea, controversy over the ruling in favor of a patient’s right to die with dignity has risen to the surface.
In a survey of 1,006 adults conducted in September last year, 87.5 percent of respondents said that a patient should be allowed to face natural death when it is imminent and medical treatment is futile. This survey result means that the general public is also assenting to the necessity of choice for desperate patients in hopeless situations.
However, many people claim death with dignity poses huge problems because the lower classes in society are more likely to choose death out of financial necessity. In addition, insurance companies will tend to offer death benefits to patients rather than pay out large sums of insurance until they die.
To solve these negative aspects, the Korean government must establish an organization to manage ethical decisions about death, and should also make some rules such as providing time for mature deliberation through national debates.
If the whole society makes an effort to reach the point of concurrence and actively discuss ways of reducing the misuse of a policy concerning death with dignity, the rule of peaceful death has real meaning to despairing patients, someone who could be a member of your family.
Song Jeong-ha, university student